with No Comments

Post No.: 0193ancestry


Furrywisepuppy says:


When people investigate into their own ancestry or genealogy, chances are they will find at least someone in their lineage who was historically great or interesting.


Now this is actually nothing to write home about because it is just the statistical odds and logic.


One reason is because one has one’s mother’s and father’s sides to investigate, and then one’s mother’s mother’s and mother’s father’s sides and father’s mother’s and father’s father’s sides, and so on, to investigate i.e. going back another generation each time exponentially increases the number of opportunities to find someone interesting – and that’s even more true when you include any of these people’s brothers, sisters or cousins too, rather than just themselves and their own children.


The world’s human population is still growing, thus lots of people alive today will share the same ancestors from a few generations ago too i.e. from a small group of people came a large number of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on. So if certain people have great or interesting people in their family trees then chances are so do many other people for being related to the exact same people.


Furthermore, if one properly understands what ‘survival of the fittest’ means – one will understand that if one is alive today then that means one is at the end or juncture of a complete and unbroken chain of successful (as in ‘fit’) generations of humans (or more broadly generations of life). If anyone in your particular line of ancestry were not fit enough to survive, bear and raise any offspring then you logically would not and could not be here to contemplate your ancestry! Those who weren’t ‘fit for survival and reproduction’ simply didn’t have offspring who in turn survived and could attempt to search for their own ancestry data today.


Although it’s difficult to visualise or imagine what or who failed to exist (e.g. in a parallel universe, you maybe could’ve had five more fluffy siblings, uncles or aunties than you actually have or had in this world) – when one realises how many direct copies of genes didn’t survive to replicate onto another generation and to this day, one will realise that everyone who is alive today is hardly all who could have been alive today. And so with those genes that have survived to this day so far, the chances are high that someone, a few generations back at least, will have had an interesting story.


The bottom line is that if someone weren’t from ‘good/lucky genetic stock’ then they wouldn’t be alive today, and if they’re not alive today then they logically aren’t going to be able to wonder what their family tree was like. So it’s arguably a big ‘so what?’ if you’re apparently genetically related to the Romans, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans or whoever – all lineages have been and are equally as genetically fit as each other, otherwise logically no one from those lineages would be alive today. No (arbitrarily-categorised) ethnic or genealogical group that is alive today is technically genetically better than any other – well, at least without a crystal ball to look into the future. The process of analysing one’s DNA ancestry is looking at the past though so that will not tell anyone about the highly uncertain future. Moreover, if you look back enough, you’ll understand that all Homo sapiens are ultimately related to each other and came from Africa according to the strongest present theory.


I want to stress again that no one alive today is really genetically superior to anyone else who is also alive today, whatever their background or where they are in the world, how big, small or even how bright they are. Even billionaires bleed and die like everyone else. One might be able to confidently foresee the future of e.g. individuals who are barren or infertile, or individuals with terminal illnesses (although new technologies might change their prognoses in the future hence it isn’t a 100% confidence) – but no ethnic group is technically genetically superior or inferior to any other.


As written in Post No.: 0110 – whether you’re an amoeba, a human or anything else – if you’re currently alive then you’re technically in the set of the ‘fittest’. What makes one individual or species objectively better than another in ‘Darwinian’ terms if both are currently equally surviving? And it’s not in good taste to laugh about those who died or never even had the chance to exist either. A species having evolved later doesn’t imply that it is better too – not that humans are the latest species to evolve so far anyway. Humans are not likely going to be the last species to ever exist in the universe as well. And if, as a taxonomic family, amoebidae outlive hominidae in the future (and they likely will based on how long they’ve existed so far) then the former will be considered better in survival terms than the latter.


If you’re alive today (and I’m 100% confident to say that you are if you’re reading this! Unless you’re a robot? But would that mean that such a robot should be considered alive too?!) then you are logically as equally fit enough to be alive today as anything else that is alive today – unlike e.g. 12ft tall titans with telekinetic powers or flying tortoises that breathe jets of ice i.e. according to nature and natural selection, you’re currently fitter than these fantastic creatures or anything or anyone else that or who no longer exists or has never ever existed in this world… except in our wonderful imaginations and stories. Ahem. Woof!


So you’ve got to think about and compare with those who died without bearing descendents who are alive today, or those who were simply never born at all. This is why the Darwin Awards don’t simply go to people who’ve been stupid – they must also have died or at least sterilised themselves. However again, it’s not too tasteful to laugh at or be haughty at those who died without bearing offspring who became old enough to bear offspring themselves, or those who simply never had a chance to live. So just understand how probably special or lucky you are with the life force or vitality you have today. After all, lots of people die or don’t have children through no stupidity of their own, and lots of people live and have children even if they might be considered stupid by others.


And due to the mixing of genes in the gene pool of your ancestry (hopefully!), as well as the important environmental effects of epigenetics and the major impacts of upbringing, culture, education, opportunities and so forth – it’s likely not right to think that the genes of a blood relative many generations back has made one who one is today e.g. that your great-great-grandmother was a highly driven person and so that’s why you’re highly driven too because you must’ve inherited those genes from her – you merely share, probabilistically, only 6.25% or one-sixteenth of any direct copies of her DNA! With such a small percentage of direct genetic inheritance, it’d be incredibly difficult to say that your ambitious mindset likely came from her rather than other sources (or more likely a combination of various sources, both genetic and environmental).


One great historic person’s genes and lineage will also be related to possibly hundreds of different people alive today (if only they could all be traced) – and the diversity of personalities, fortunes and circumstances of these different people will show you that it is a huge leap to think that this historic person’s genes were undoubtedly key to your own personality and fortunes (in the previous example, your great-grandparent, grandparent and parent, at the very least, would also share those ‘highly driven’ genes too otherwise they couldn’t have passed your great-great-grandmother’s genes onto you); unless maybe every single descendent of that person ended up having the exact same personality and fortune, which is incredibly doubtful. Others who share some of the same genes in your family tree likely have different personalities and/or life outcomes.


So we mustn’t just cherry-pick data points that confirm our selective biases but also look at data points that don’t, such as someone in your generation who is also related to the exact same historic person but who is very different to you – maybe even a sibling? We shouldn’t ignore that different people within our own immediate nuclear families are frequently different to each other hence genetics are hardly the full story. This selective bias also means that people tend to focus on the relatives whom they are proud of, whilst ignoring those whom they aren’t!


Well what complicates the picture of who shares what exact genes with each other though is that even non-identical twin siblings only share, on average, 50% of the same gene copies from their parents with each other. If you’re (on average) 50, 25, 12.5 or whatever percent directly genetically-related to someone else, it depends highly on which 50, 25, 12.5 or whatever percent you’re directly genetically-related with them – the ‘good’ genes or ‘bad’ genes? We’ve all got a bit of both – even geniuses and top athletes. No one’s got completely ‘perfect’ genes (whatever that means, because it depends on the environment one is trying to survive in i.e. some genes are good for some environments or circumstances but bad for others e.g. genes to more readily store fat). If you are given a cake that is 50% or 25% made from ‘top quality ingredients’ with the rest made from random or unknown quality ingredients then could you be sure it’d be a good cake?! Organisms are really only as strong as their weakest rather than their strongest feature too – we don’t so much survive by our strongest feature but die by our weakest. We don’t systematically see family dynasties full of Nobel Prize winners or top sportspeople – even if they tried to inbreed to ‘keep the ‘good’ genes in and the ‘bad’ genes out’, which itself isn’t likely to be good genetically(!)


Most of all – the ‘gene-environment interactions’ are incredibly complex, and it’s really this complex combination and interplay of genes and environmental factors that make us who we are. We are far more than just our genes – we are also the result of all our experiences too. Even identical twins, who share 100% the same genome as each other, commonly exhibit different life outcomes.


So in my own furry opinion, I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest about one’s DNA ancestry (apart from maybe understanding inherited disease risks, yet even these are only probabilistic rather than fated in almost all cases). The fact that you are alive today means that you have a successful, unbroken lineage starting from the beginning of life on Earth. Out of the unfathomable number of events since the beginning of time that might not have happened for you to be alive today (e.g. your great-grandmother and great-grandfather meeting) – you are alive today! You are alive today and as equally alive and therefore equally fit to be alive today as anyone else who is alive today – you’re as equally great or not great as anyone else from a natural selection perspective, no matter about your or their ancestry. Wherever or whoever you supposedly came from – if you were not fit enough to survive for the present environment then you logically wouldn’t be surviving in the present environment. That’s what ‘survival of the fittest’ essentially means.


I’m personally more interested in the collective ancestry of humans i.e. the past of the human species as a whole, as well as the collective future of life as a whole going forwards. Plus I think we should go make our own history rather than dine on or worry about whatever any of our own ancestors apparent did or who they were.


Woof! Be more bothered about your legacy than your ancestry.


Comment on this post by replying to this tweet:


Share this post